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11 Giraffe Adaptations (Evolutionary Benefits!)

Angolan Giraffe

The giraffe is an amazing animal that has a number of adaptations that help it to survive in the wild. Despite being a gentle herbivore, it’s managed to outlive many other creates in the dangerous African wilderness.

Examples of giraffe adaptations include its long neck, which allows it to reach food high up in trees; its strong legs, which enable it to run fast and escape predators; and its long eyelashes, which protect its eyes from dust and dirt.

Giraffe Adaptations

1. Long Necks

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

Giraffes are perhaps best known for their long necks, which can measure up to six feet in length.

It’s generally believed that giraffes developed this adaptation to reach high-up food on trees. These animals are mostly herbivorous, and their diet consists mostly of leaves from trees and shrubs.

By stretching their necks upward, giraffes can access leaves that other animals cannot reach.

Additionally, the long neck may also give giraffes an advantage when it comes to defending themselves from predators. By holding their head high, giraffes can keep a lookout for danger and spot potential threats from a distance.

The long neck might also help giraffes to intimidate rivals during mating season.

Read Also: Are Giraffes Quiet Animal?

2. Long Legs

Giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

Giraffes are the tallest land animals, and their long legs are a big part of what allows them to reach such heights. But these limbs aren’t just for show – they also give giraffes the ability to run fast and kick hard if necessary.

The giraffe can run up to 60 kilometers per hour at top speed. They need this, though, because predators that eat giraffes like the cheetah can run even faster – up to 130 kilometers per hour!

In the wild, giraffes use their speed to escape predators and their powerful kicks to defend themselves from attackers.

Related Article: 10 Giraffe Personality Traits

3. Camouflage Coat with Spots

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

The spots on a giraffe’s coat provide effective camouflage against predators, and the coat itself acts as a form of protective coloration.

Giraffes have a unique coat pattern that helps them blend in with their surroundings. Their coat is covered with large, dark spots. The background color of their coat can range from light yellow to deep reddish-brown.

The spots on their coat are arranged in a symmetrical pattern, which helps to break up their outline and make them harder to spot.

4. Horns

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

Horns on the giraffe provide protection from predators. The sharp points on a giraffe’s horns can deter predators or even injure them if they get too close.

Additionally, horns can be used as weapons in self-defense.

Male giraffes will sometimes use their horns to fight each other for dominance or mating rights. The size and strength of a bull’s horns can be the deciding factor in who comes out on top.

Horns can also be an important social signal.

In many species, horns are used to establish rank within a hierarchy. For giraffes, males with larger horns are often more successful at securing mates. As a result, horns play an important role in reproduction.

Additionally, both male and female giraffes use their horns to defend their young from predators.

5. Strong Tongue

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

Giraffes have a long, blue tongue which they use to strip leaves off of trees.

The average giraffe tongue is about 18 inches long, but some have been known to grow as long as two feet. This allows them to reach leaves and buds from the top of the trees.

But the tongue is more than just a long appendage – it’s also incredibly muscular, giving giraffes the ability to curl it around branches and pull down food. In addition, the tongue is covered in a thick layer of saliva, which helps protect against thorns and prickly plants.

6. Good Eyesight

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

Thanks to their great eyesight (and of course their long necks), giraffes can spot potential predators from a mile away.

They need this eyesight because they have some extremely ferocious predators, including lions, leopards, and hyenas.

They can also see clearly in low light and are able to distinguish between different colors.

This allows them to find ripe fruit among the leaves of a tree and to avoid eating poisonous berries. In short, giraffes have good eyesight because it is essential for survival in the wild.

7. Knobbed Knees

Giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

Giraffes are uniquely equipped to deal with the demands of their environment. Their long necks allow them to reach high leaves, and their knobbed knees give them extra stability when they are grazing.

One theory why they have knobbed knees is that the knobs help to protect the joints from getting injured when the giraffe is lying down. Another possibility is that the knobs provide extra support when the giraffe is standing on one leg.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that the knobbed knees of a giraffe are yet another example of the animal’s impressive adaptation to its habitat.

8. A Tough Kick

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Behavioral

Giraffes are gentle giants, but they are not defenseless. When faced with a threat, they will use their long legs to deliver powerful kicks that can injure or even kill an attacker.

In addition, their sharp hooves can be used to strike an opponent, and their long necks can be used to reach high branches and deliver a powerful headbutt.

However, giraffes prefer to avoid conflict whenever possible, and will usually only resort to violence when they feel threatened or cornered.

9. Special Saliva

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

Giraffes have a thick saliva coating in their mouths that they have developed as a protective measure. The saliva protects them from the thick thorns and sticks on the trees that they graze upon.

For example, one of the giraffe’s favorite meals is acacia trees, which are armed with spiky thorns but have a strong prehensile tongue and protective saliva to help them eat the nutritious leaves.

When the giraffe gets these thick thorns and sticks in their mouth, the saliva helps to lubricate them so they can be swallowed more easily.

10. Traveling in Herds

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Behavioral

Giraffes are social animals that live in herds of up to 30 individuals. Within these herds, there is a complex social hierarchy, and giraffes often form close bonds with other members of their group.

One reason why giraffes travel in herds is for protection from predators. There is safety in numbers, and a group of giraffes can deter or even scare off potential threats.

Another reason why giraffes travel in herds is for access to resources. Herds of giraffes often stick together when they are moving to a new feeding ground or water hole. By traveling in a group, they can cover more ground and find the best resources for their needs.

Finally, giraffes travel in herds because it facilitates mating.

Male giraffes will compete for access to females, and being part of a herd gives them a better chance of finding a mate.

In short, there are many reasons why giraffes choose to live in groups, and their herd behavior plays an important role in their survival.

11. Eyelashes

giraffe

Type of Adaptation: Structural

Giraffes have impressively long eyelashes that are necessary in the dry desert-like climates in which giraffes live.

Eyelashes serve several important functions. First, they help to protect the eyes from dirt and debris. The thick, curved lashes form a barrier that prevents small particles from entering the eye.

In addition, eyelashes help to keep the eyes moist by deflecting wind and keeping evaporation to a minimum.

Finally, eyelashes play an important role in the giraffe’s sense of sight. The long lashes act as a screen that filters out excess light, allowing the giraffe to see more clearly.

Without eyelashes, the giraffe would be bombarded with too much visual information and its vision would be severely impaired.

Conclusion

The giraffe is an amazing animal that has adapted to its environment in a variety of ways. From its long neck and legs to its thick saliva and eyelashes, the giraffe has evolved to survive in its harsh surroundings.

Though they are often hunted by predators, the giraffe’s impressive adaptations help it to avoid danger and thrive in the wild. The next time you see a giraffe, take a moment to appreciate all of the ways that this incredible creature has adapted to its environment.

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